They verify, for the first time, that it would be possible remove the prostate cancer attacking a single enzyme called PI5P4Kαa discovery that may help prevent patients from developing resistance to standard treatment for this disease and help develop most effective therapies against others types of cancer such as those of the breast, skin and pancreas.
“This is the first time this enzyme has been linked to prostate cancer, and we hope it will be relevant to other types of cancer as well,” said co-lead author Brooke Emerling, an associate professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys. “An important element to improve the precision medicine is to use as many tools as possible to treat cancer and mitigate the risk of resistance.”
The treatment of prostate cancer is usually approached with drugs that reduce the levels of testosterone and other male sex hormones, but 10-20% of prostate tumors become resistant to treatment within five years, and this resistant cancer can metastasize and be fatal. Therefore, Emerling points out: “Understanding how prostate cancer develops resistance is essential to discover new therapeutic strategies to delay or reverse the progression of prostate cancer.”
“We have found an enzyme that may be a target against prostate cancer, even in cases where hormone-reducing treatments are ineffective”
The prostate is a gland that needs the androgens – which are male sex hormones – to grow and the cancer hijacks the androgen signaling machinery of the prostate to develop rapidly, so treatments that block these pathways are used to fight it.
“What is remarkable is that we have found an enzyme that may be a target against prostate cancer, even in cases where hormone-lowering treatments are ineffective, or where resistance has developed,” explains Emerling. “This could give us a Completely New Weapon Against Prostate Cancer and Other Cancers that depend on this enzyme. The results of the study have been published in Science Advances.
Inhibiting an enzyme fights resistant prostate cancer
Emerling and colleagues at the University of Bern led by Mark A. Rubin, co-senior author of the study, observed that patients with refractory prostate cancer had elevated levels of PI5P4Kα, suggesting that this protein played a key role in the ability of tumors to resist treatment and grow. Subsequently, these investigators used various prostate cancer model systems that enabled them to demonstrate that the inhibition of this enzyme could eliminate treatment-resistant prostate cancer.
PI5P4Kα is part of a group of enzymes called PI5P4Ks that are involved in the metabolism of lipids, a type of molecule that includes fats, hormones, and many vitamins. Recently, study of the lipid metabolism as a promising therapeutic pathway for cancer. “Therapies that target lipid metabolism could be an untapped treasure trove, and it’s something that researchers are very interested in right now,” Emerling says.
“We are working to develop drugs that target this enzyme, and there are several companies developing their own drugs as well.” “There is no drug yet, but I am very hopeful that in the near future we will have something in clinical trials. That would be surprising”, concludes the researcher.